Ten years after her record run across America, Glen Ellyn native, Katie Visco just completed her epic run across Australia, from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south. Instead of vehicle support, she opted for her husband Henley Phillips to pedal a 350-pound bicycle plus trailer with all their food, water, and gear, making the journey the first-ever bicycle-supported transcontinental run across any country. Katie ran 30 miles a day for 119 days, totaling 2,210 miles, to inspire others to never let fear stand in the way of pursuing a dream.
“I wanted to head to Oz to travel through her deserts, into her complex and elegant desolation,” described Visco, explaining her motivation for this feat. “I wanted to go to the desert to shed a layer off. This is my pilgrimage, to confront all parts of myself in one of the most raw and barren places on earth, to find my Katie again, to reclaim all of my fire, to accept my vulnerability and let it all go at the same time. I want to challenge myself by doing something incredibly hard, and running is one medium through which I can do that.”
The couple camped each night under the huge Aussie Outback sky, carried enough food and water for 10-17 days at a time, and stuck to back dirt roads through Australia’s Red Centre. Together, they persisted and survived across this incredibly vast, desolate, quiet, sandy, dry, complex, remote, captivating desert country that is currently experiencing its worst drought in seven years.
“Henley and I would wake up at 5 AM, have a snack and pack up camp, and hit the road by 5:50 AM,” Visco stated explaining her “typical” day. “I would run about 8 miles through dawn and sunrise and then at about 7:30 we would break and have an oatmeal breakfast and coffee/tea for 70-90 minutes. I would go back out again for another hour and a half or 8 miles before a rest and roller stick action. Then back out for another hour and a half. At around 12:30/1pm we’d break for lunch and a nap till 4pm to escape the afternoon heat.”
During their time in Oz, Katie and Henley spoke at schools along the way, met Aboriginals, and were featured on national Australian and American media such as NPR Morning Edition. To boot, Katie became the first person to run dirt roads across Australia, and only woman to run through the Red Centre.
“It took everything we had (from the inside), and now Henley and I can say with the biggest smiles and sense of pride, ‘Holy moley, we did that!’ I truly cannot believe that my body rose to the occasion; day after day I asked it to do so much and it responded with, ‘OK, I’m with you.’ At the end of the day, it truly was 99% mental and 100% WORTH IT.”
Besides a stress injury in her left foot and a strained groin muscle, she’s doing remarkably well physically after the feat. Emotionally, “I’ve been collecting my feelings and thoughts since finishing my run about what it’s like to finish something huge – a life-long dream in fact – and then move on to re-enter a new reality. It’s a complicated transition, yet just another adventure in different form.”
In moments when she had to dig deep to find the motivation to keep moving, Visco explained her motivation.
“In my lowest moments, I learned that motivation and willpower are fickle things. When you find yourself in the throws of pain, suffering, or fight or flight mode, it gets really hard to keep perseverant. For example, when my knees busted and it hurt to walk, I found myself entertaining any respectable way to get off my feet – get on a bike the last 900 miles? – or quit. Having these thoughts, and judging myself to be weak and soft for even having them, is excruciating – a mental agony even harder than feeling the physical pain. No one will ever know how hard this trip was except me (and Henley in his own way), and I came to accept the loneliness and torment of that. I also discovered, in the throws of my true lowest moment, near Finke, South Australia, my true purpose of being out in Australia – to work through insanely tough times as a team with the person I love most. This was my rock as we pushed on to the ocean. “Together, together, rock on,” I would remind myself. Keeping this purpose in my head and heart was what saved the trip for me.”
If anyone wants to hear more of the story and follow along with their future trips, please sign up for their adventure newsletter at www.katievisco.com and check out Katie’s Instagram @katievisco.